Living to Love
In our message last week I noted how God already had a message in mind well before the pandemic facing our world today. This message follows right in ling with last week, but with emphasis on loving one another. The temptation might be to bunker down and not have anything to do with other people. However, while safe hygiene is highly important to prevent a virus, the Bible’s message never indicates a point when we stop caring for others and become hermits.
The questions before us today might be, “how can I serve others while protecting myself and my family,” or “is there a way I can serve others while not carrying a virus that might infect them?”
I believe the information provided to us by our health officials is the best information available. Furthermore, I think this is a time unlike any other where the church can show our love to others.
Our authority is the Bible. Let’s look there for our message today.
ILL - Some projects are worth the effort, some just make a big mess. Jennifer and painted our garage. Before the painting, I patched holes. The painting paper went down, the ladders up, and we got to work. I have to say, while we had a big mess during the process, the finished product made us very happy.
Church life often gets messy, but it is worth the effort we put into it. God thinks so. See, church is paid for with the blood of Jesus:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
Also, God’s wisdom is made through the church to those in heaven:
so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
What does this mean? It means that while church might make a mess not and then, the mess we make is worth the making!
Why is it that so many Christians don’t like changes in the church? Why do upset when the changes help the church reach more people for Jesus? Why are so few willing to be involved with making waves, but are so quick to so “no” they will not let ________ happen in or with their church?
Jesus died for the church, so how might God want us to work through the mess of change in order to reach more people?
This is a good question for us to ask. I’ve said it before that we are a tiny church, but God is showing us He has a plan. Are we willing to put away our “no” so that God can grow the church?
Let’s ask God to help us navigate the unknown future. Let’s see what the Bible teaches us about working through the mess.
Recall that Paul is speaking to the Galatians. They were in a real mess. Paul spent 4.5 chapters describing the mess and now is turning things toward the solution. Paul give the Galatians instructions for making there way through the mess.
The key here is found in v.13:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Catch those words, “through love serve one another.”?
Paul seeks to motivate the Galatians to the call to “love” other people.
Church life calls us to sacrifice personal wants, preferences, desires, and how we do things. I suppose this time of pandemic is truly a challenge, a mess, where God will show His hand if we allow Him to do so.
In our text we’ll note that Paul issues a reminder, warning, and encouragement to motivate the church to lovingly serve others. Paul knows this is the solutions the church needs in their time of crisis.
Let’s look a todays entire passage.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
3 Main points:
Serving Friends in Faith
Serving Friends in Faith
ILL - Lake and Sumter Emergency Response (LASER) are asking area churches to respond to this pandemic. It is truly wonderful how God’s people step up and work together when they are needed.
Serving others is part of a Christian’s personality, if you will. Once God’s Spirit begins to lead us, we start to act like Jesus and care deeply for other people. Jesus sets the example of love laying down His life for others.
Our passage reminds us of our freedom which is the foundation of our life together, as the body, the church. There is no freedom, nor community, nor church without the freedom found in Jesus.
We are free Americans who tend to consider our freedom in simply political or economic terms. As a citizen of the USA we say things such as, “I am debt free,” or “we are a free people.”
As a church, we need to consider words, not from the perspective of the world, but from what the Bible teaches and how God intends us to understand them. Our “freedom” is how we relate both to God and to other people. Because of the relationship a person has with God, they know freedom from the bondage of sin. It does not matter what country you assign your citizenship. It matters little what you owe the bank. All people are under the lordship of powers stronger than themselves.
Wonderful thing about being in a relationship with God is that the Christian knows true freedom.
The Christian enjoys more freedom than the non-Christian because of the freedom we have is found in Jesus.
God is the One who calls us to Jesus, who starts the process, who brings us into a relationship with Himself. God frees people from sin and self. God’s power releases us from the power that sin has over us. God’s power releases us from the power of what the Bible calls “flesh.”
The “flesh” is the fallen, the person not in a relationship with God. Their is no escaping the power of the “flesh” because we live with ourselves every moment. Both the power of sin and the power of the flesh lord over us and cause us to live sinful and immoral lives.
Everyone experiences the power of the “flesh” and is tempted to pursue passions and indulge in the illicit. Paul calls this the “desire of the flesh” v.16 and “flesh with passions and desires” v.24.
Flesh does not keep itself contained to the individual. Flesh is acting out. I’m sure we are familiar with a parent advising children to, “stop acting out.” We understand that “flesh” involves both self and others it infects. Paul calls this activity “works of the flesh” which are things that oppose God’s will for humankind. Paul even provides a list of these:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
TRANS - So, the opposite of a loveless life of self serving is a love-fill life of sacrificial service. God calls us to freedom by brining us into a right relationship with Himself through Jesus.
Does the Christian get a free pass? Is the flesh gone after a serious talk with God? Let’s take a look at this in our next point.
Subject to Fleshly Filth
Subject to Fleshly Filth
Okay, so flesh crucified with Christ, yet with us not completely gone. God initiates the relationship we enter into through Jesus and our flesh is crucified with Him, our flesh is executed.
How is it then we continue to sin? Few things, we live in broken bodies, corrupt world, and in a sinful world. That is why the Bible can say:
that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Recall the beginning of Galatians:
who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
We need rescue and God will provide.
Think of it this way. The evil in the world is busy. What does evil desire? It wants to rob God of the worship due to Him alone. It seeks to get back control of loosing us to Jesus. It uses all the broken parts of this world, including non-Christians, to wage war. A word on that, the non-Christian needs rescue too. We are not at war with people, but with sin.
The flesh is against God, healthy relationship, and a nice community.
The flesh is selfish and wants to satisfy evil desires which leads to the destruction of good relationships.
The flesh is always seeking out a crack in us where it can begin to wedge apart what God has glued together. Flesh seeks to break apart relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, business owners and employees, neighbors, fellow workers, or any other healthy relationship.
The flesh has no heart; it is uncaring, sneaky, mean, and ruthless. It is always around and using every tool it has to get us to let it in and begin its destructive work. It gets us when our defences are down, when we are down it kicks us as it seeks to completely upset and wreak havoc in the lives of humankind.
What are some examples of where flesh seeks to begin its work:
having an unforgiving spirit
making a big deal out of little things (Pr 19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.)
negatively spinning the words of others (just observe the news for that one)
similarly, speaking evil about others (Ja 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another)
gossip (speaking the true about someone that does not build them up) “Did you hear?” followed by some disturbing thing
critical speaking (some seem to have a very critical spirit rarely saying encouraging things) What ever happed to bragging on someone, building them up, encouraging one another?
Harsh words, mean jokes, sarcasm that makes others feel somehow defiled just by listening to a person (the lost, expect it, but a Christian should never) pray for them, but avoid them too, use your heads
this one is big, not dealing with personal grievances quickly and directly with one another, (Ep do not let the sun go down on your anger. A word on this. Never, not ever, should a husband or a wife say anything negative about their spouse to other people. Jesus always directly spoke His grievances directly to people. When you say something bad about someone close to you, in a negative way, it does not make you look better than them. It does, however, open that crack for evil to begin wedging you and others apart. Your spouse and all those people to whom you’ve spoken all sorts of bad thing to about your spouse. They wonder, “Say this about their spouse, what do they say about me behind my back?”
Thes are 8 common ways we give evil a place to begin its wicked work destroying the relationships in our lives. I can only imagine what a wonderful world it might be should we stop all things I listed. Every church would be so inviting we’d have to build new buildings at every stop just to contain the welcomed people.
TRANS - Now that we’ve addressed Serving Friends in Faith and Subject to Fleshly Filth, lets look at an image of how a world of love might look.
Soberly Foreshadowing the Finish
Soberly Foreshadowing the Finish
Our freedom is a gift when taken lightly we lose. Giving flesh room in our new life of freedom not only makes us slaves to sin again, but gives evil a way back into our lives. Evil seeks to destroy all our relationships with an exceptional interest on interrupting the relationship we have with God.
We must we aware of the works of the flesh and take every measure to protect our lives from the onslaught of evil in our lives. In war we make barricades, lay mines, and learn about the enemy. We are at war with evil and must take active measures to protect our lives from evil. We learn Scripture, have daily time with God, and work together as a church.
Our passage reminds us that freedom is the foundation for the relationships we have with one another. As such, we ought not abuse our freedom seeking things for ourselves, but rather serve others in love.
Loving others, serving in faith, has an underlying truth. If we fail to serve, we fail to fulfill the whole Law. See, Paul tells us that we will love others as our self fulfilling the whole Law.
Can you see the faces of the people Paul is addressing? Super shocking, entirely encouraging, and masterly motivating was Paul’s word. Recall, Paul is addressing the Galatians as the agitators attempt to get the people to turn from Jesus back to the Law of the OT. Paul is communication the NT, the way is to serve one another in love thus fulfilling the whole law. That pretty much takes care of the agitators and their “no gospel at all” teaching.
Think of the power of serving others in love. All that work of the flesh, all those selfish desires are handled.
Helping someone else takes our minds of ourself.
Heartfelt praying for somebody focuses us on Jesus and the needs of others. It’s pretty difficult to hold on to negative feelings when praying God would bless others abundantly.
Listen to Paul address the Ephesians:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Hear Peter how Peter puts this same thing:
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Service for others, loving others, is how we walk worthy and it covers a multitude of sins!
We love others by respecting them too:
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
Perhaps it sounds funny for a pastor to quote this verse. But, look again at that last bit, “Live in peace with on another.” There seems to be a connection between the peace in a church and the how a people respects their pastor. Healthy churches have wonderful things to say about their leadership just as sick ones lake a good word.
Do you know Philippians puts this into a nice paragraph for us?:
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
It’s all there! Serve others in love and count them significantly more than ourselves. That is the mind of Christ.
TRANS - This is the end or our message. Recapping the points: Serving Friends in Faith, Subject to Fleshly Filth, and Soberly Foreshadowing the Finish.
Let’s wrap this up.
Loving others happens when we are filled with the Spirit and place signifiant concern on caring for others.
Martin Luther tells us to “become Christ to the other” meaning being filled with the Spirit and carrying on as one body through faith.
Our freedom is in Jesus and there is nobody ever greater a servant than Him.
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
That is the mind of Christ we are called to put on each day.
We are called to imitate Jesus and work together to bring the gospel to everyone.
Christians treat others with grace and mercy because that is how God treats us.
The love that fills us is expressed toward others which makes us light in a world so darkened by sin.
Instead of seeking to satisfy ourselves, we pursue not our passions but God’s promises.
The mess, which sometimes effects the church, but one which we work through together.
Our passage begs us to work through messes, ones we make, ones we encounter, in our lives, or in the church; begs we work through by serving one another in love:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.